(Adults, you could begin by reading the Gospel to your child.)
In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus and his friends are at someone's home for dinner. Many important people have gathered. As the people sit down to eat, something odd happens.
"the guests chose the places of honour"
Why are the GUESTS choosing where they sit? When we go to someone's home for dinner, usually they tell us where we should sit. Or sometime they might tell us to choose our seat, but we wait until they say that, right? Jesus must think this is odd, too, because he tells a parable when he notices people choosing the best places for themselves.
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honour, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place.
That person must be so embarrassed! That person chooses the place of honour, thinking that she or he is the most important person in the place, but then is told to move because someone more important is coming.
But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at the table with you.
This person makes a better choice, right? This person chooses the lowest place, not thinking that she or he is the most important person in the place, and then gets to hear the host call her or him, "Friend!" Now this person receives honour. Honour is not chosen; honour is received.
Who gives honour? That job seems to belong to the host of the feast.
For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
To exalt means to lift up, to receive honour. To humble means to make low. Jesus tells this parable when people are choosing honour for themselves instead of waiting for the host to give it to them. They are exalting themselves. This is not the right order of things, Jesus says.
In this home where everyone gathers with Jesus to eat, who should have the greatest place of honour?
There are important people, there are people who deserve lots of respect, but who do we know deserves even more than respect? Who deserves honour? Who is the greatest of all? We know, of course, that it is Jesus.
Perhaps the people do not realize that they are with Jesus, the Light of the World.
Perhaps the people do not realize that they are with Jesus, the Good Shepherd who calls his sheep by name.
Perhaps the people do not realize that they are with Jesus, who gives everything he has—his body and his whole life in the bread and wine—before the soldiers ever came to take it away.
Perhaps they do not realize that they are with Jesus, who makes himself so low—he dies on the cross. They cannot know that they are with Jesus who is lifted up so high—he rises to new life, never to die again.
But we know.
When we are with Jesus, what can we do to show that we know how great he is? We can make ourselves low. We can humble ourselves.
We keep in mind the right order of things: God first.
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. (Matthew 22:37-38)
And because we love God, we love others, too.
“You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39)
Loving our neighbour—making sure others get good seats, that everyone's needs are taken care of, that no one is upset—is another way of humbling ourselves.
When we humble ourselves, what does Jesus call us?
“Friend, move up higher!”
It is so good to be called Jesus' friend, isn't it?